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28 Nov 10:56

PSA: Do Not Use Services That Hate The Internet

by jwz
mkalus shared this story from jwz.

Don't make me tap the sign: app-only interfaces are not a part of the World Wide Web. As you look around for a new social media platform, I implore you, only use one that is a part of the World Wide Web.

tl;dr avoid Hive and Post.

If posts in a social media app do not have URLs that can be linked to and viewed in an unauthenticated browser, or if there is no way to make a new post from a browser, then that program is not a part of the World Wide Web in any meaningful way.

Consign that app to oblivion.

Most social media services want to lock you in. They love their walled gardens and they think that so long as they tightly control their users and make it hard for them to escape, they will rule the world forever.

This was the business model of Compuserve. And AOL. And then a little thing called The Internet got popular for a minute in the mid 1990s, and that plan suddenly didn't work out so well for those captains of industry.

The thing that makes the Internet useful is interoperability. These companies hate that. The thing that makes the Internet become more useful is the open source notion that there will always be more smart people who don't work for your company than that do, and some of those people will find ways to expand on your work in ways you never anticipated. These companies hate that, too. They'd rather you have nothing than that you have something they don't own.

Instagram started this trend: they didn't even have a web site until 2012. It was phone-app-onlly. They were dragged kicking and screaming onto the World Wide Web by, ironically, Facebook, who bought them to eliminate them as competition.

Hive Social is exactly this app-only experience. Do not use Hive. Anyone letting that app -- or anything like it -- get its hooks into them is making a familiar and terrible mistake. We've been here before. Don't let it happen again.

John Ripley:

So many people, who should know better, blogging about their switch to Hive on the basis of user experience or some other vacuous crap, and not fundamentals like, "Is this monetized, and if not yet, when how and who?" or "who runs this?" or "is it sane to choose another set of castle walls to live as a peasant within?"

Post Dot News also seems absolutely vile.

First of all, Marc Andreessen is an investor, and there is no redder red flag than that. "How much more red? None. None more red", as Spinal Tap would say. He's a right wing reactionary whose idea of "free speech" is in line with Musk, Trump, Thiel and the rest of the Klept.

Second, it appears to be focused on "micropayments", which these days means "cryptocurrency Ponzi schemes", another of marca's favorite grifts.

They call themselves "a platform for real people, civil conversations". So, Real Names Policy and tone policing by rich white dudes is how I translate that. But hey, at least their TOS says they won't discriminate against billionaires:

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of their gender, religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, net worth, or beliefs.

Mastodon is kind of a mess right now, and maybe it will not turn out to be what you or I are looking for. But to its credit, interoperability is at its core, rather than being something that the VCs will just take away when it no longer serves their growth or onboarding projections.

There is a long history of these data silos (and very specifically Facebook, Google and Twitter) being interoperable, federating, providing APIs and allowing others to build alternate interfaces -- until they don't. They keep up that charade while they are small and growing, and drop it as soon as they think they can get away with it, locking you inside.

Incidentally, and tangentially relatedly, Signal is not a messaging program but rather is a sketchy-as-fuck growth-at-any-cost social network. Fuck Signal too.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

28 Nov 10:51

Apple Hobbled Protesters' Tool in China Weeks Before Widespread Protests

by EditorDavid
"China's control of the internet has become so strong that dissidents must cling to any crack in the so-called Great Firewall," writes Qz. But as anti-government protests sprung up on campuses and cities in China over the weekend, Qz reminds us that "the country's most widespread show of public dissent in decades will have to manage without a crucial communication tool, because Apple restricted its use in China earlier this month." AirDrop, the file-sharing feature on iPhones and other Apple devices, has helped protestors in many authoritarian countries evade censorship. That's because AirDrop relies on direct connections between phones, forming a local network of devices that don't need the internet to communicate. People can opt into receiving AirDrops from anyone else with an iPhone nearby. That changed on Nov. 9, when Apple released a new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 16.1.1, to customers worldwide. Rather than listing new features, as it often does, the company simply said, "This update includes bug fixes and security updates and is recommended for all users." Hidden in the update was a change that only applies to iPhones sold in mainland China: AirDrop can only be set to receive messages from everyone for 10 minutes, before switching off. There's no longer a way to keep the "everyone" setting on permanently on Chinese iPhones. The change, first noticed by Chinese readers of 9to5Mac, doesn't apply anywhere else. Apple didn't respond to questions about the AirDrop change. It plans to make the "Everyone for 10 Minutes" feature a global standard next year, according to Bloomberg.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

21 Nov 07:48

Europe’s security is at stake in Moldova

by Maia Sandu

Maia Sandu is the president of the Republic of Moldova.

Three decades ago, Moldovans chose freedom and democracy over authoritarianism. And today, we’re moving decisively toward the European Union.

But with Russia’s brutal aggression against our neighbor Ukraine, our country now faces dramatic costs and heightened risks threatening to derail our chosen path, weakening Europe’s security.

Moldova is a dynamic democracy in what has become a dangerous neighborhood.

Over the past year, we’ve been building stronger institutions, fighting corruption and supporting the post-pandemic recovery. As a result, our economy grew by 14 percent in 2021; we jumped 49 ranks on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index; and our anti-money laundering rating was upgraded by the Council of Europe.

In recognition of our implementation of difficult reforms in a challenging geopolitical context, the EU granted Moldova candidate status for membership this June. But instead of enjoying the benefits of deeper European integration, Moldovans are now struggling to cope with an acute energy crisis, a severe economic downturn and massive security threats.

Many, if not all, European nations are currently facing serious energy pressures, of course — but ours are existential. The legacy of almost full dependence on Russia for gas and electricity, and the failure by successive governments to diversify supplies, is now threatening our economic survival.

As of November, Russia’s bombing of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, alongside Gazprom halving natural gas exports, has eliminated power from our previous sources of imported electricity. 

In response, the government has adopted energy austerity measures and switched some industries to alternative fuels. Longer-term energy security measures, including an electricity interconnection with Romania, will yield results but only in only a few years.

Friends and partners are also providing support to the best of their abilities.

Romania, our good neighbor and strong supporter, has stepped in, with electricity exports now accounting for about 80 percent of Moldova’s current consumption. Meanwhile, on a recent visit to Chișinău, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced fresh assistance to help ameliorate Moldova’s crisis, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has thrown a lifeline to finance emergency gas supplies.

Today, French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a meeting of the Moldova Support Platform — an initiative led by France, Germany and Romania.

The forum aims to mobilize much-needed support ahead of what is likely to be a precarious winter. Moldova is looking to finance its gas and electricity purchases from new sources and assist social schemes for the most vulnerable, which will help cushion price increases. Over the past 12 months, the price of gas in our country grew seven times over, while the price of electricity saw a four-fold increase. This winter, Moldovans are likely to spend up to 65 percent of their income on energy bills.

If we can light and heat homes in our country and make sure that schools and hospitals can still operate and the economy’s wheels keep turning, this would mean that Moldovans — alongside Ukrainians — need not seek refuge elsewhere in Europe during this upcoming cold season.

Even before winter fully sets in, the energy crisis and the economic fallout from the war next door are already having a significant impact on people’s lives, the country’s economy and our future growth. Inflation is approaching 35 percent; prices have skyrocketed; trade routes are disrupted; and investor sentiment has weakened. As a result, the economy is likely to contract.

Meanwhile, Russia’s proxies and criminal groups have joined forces to exploit the energy crisis and fuel discontent. They hope to foment political turmoil. Using the entire spectrum of hybrid threats — including fake bomb alerts, cyberattacks, disinformation, calls for social unrest and unconcealed bribery — they are working to destabilize the government, erode our democracy and jeopardize Moldova’s contribution to Europe’s wider security.

Our vulnerabilities could weaken Ukraine’s resilience, as well as stability on the rest of the continent.

While we are Ukraine’s most vulnerable neighbor, we also secure its second-longest border — after the one it has with Russia. Across these 1,222 kilometers, Moldova is a frontline state in the fight against weapons, drugs and human trafficking.

Since the beginning of the war, we’ve worked hard to maintain stability in the breakaway Transnistrian region, which shares a border over 450 kilometers long with Ukraine and where 1,600 Russian troops are stationed illegally. We’ve managed to keep the situation calm.

We also provide essential supply routes to and from Ukraine — a significant part of Ukrainian trade, including grains, go through Moldova.

Additionally, our country has sheltered more than 650,000 refugees since the first days of the Russian invasion. So far, over 80,000 of them have chosen to stay, and we’re preparing to host more in the winter, should they need to flee a military escalation or lack of heat, electricity and water.

Europe and Ukraine need a strong Moldova. Strong enough to support Ukraine during the war. Strong enough to maintain peace and stability in our region. Strong enough to shelter refugees. And strong enough to become a natural hub for the reconstruction of southern Ukraine after the war.

Just as Russia mustn’t be allowed to win in Ukraine, its hybrid techniques mustn’t be allowed to succeed in Moldova. We will do our part to defend European values despite the privations imposed on us. The price is heavy, and we are prepared to carry the burden.

But we can’t do this alone.

15 Nov 17:06

Another Event-Related Spyware App

by Bruce Schneier

Last month, we were warned not to install Qatar’s World Cup app because it was spyware. This month, it’s Egypt’s COP27 Summit app:

The app is being promoted as a tool to help attendees navigate the event. But it risks giving the Egyptian government permission to read users’ emails and messages. Even messages shared via encrypted services like WhatsApp are vulnerable, according to POLITICO’s technical review of the application, and two of the outside experts.

The app also provides Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which created it, with other so-called backdoor privileges, or the ability to scan people’s devices.

On smartphones running Google’s Android software, it has permission to potentially listen into users’ conversations via the app, even when the device is in sleep mode, according to the three experts and POLITICO’s separate analysis. It can also track people’s locations via smartphone’s built-in GPS and Wi-Fi technologies, according to two of the analysts.

14 Nov 23:13

A Digital Red Cross

by Bruce Schneier

The International Committee of the Red Cross wants some digital equivalent to the iconic red cross, to alert would-be hackers that they are accessing a medical network.

The emblem wouldn’t provide technical cybersecurity protection to hospitals, Red Cross infrastructure or other medical providers, but it would signal to hackers that a cyberattack on those protected networks during an armed conflict would violate international humanitarian law, experts say, Tilman Rodenhäuser, a legal adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross, said at a panel discussion hosted by the organization on Thursday.

I can think of all sorts of problems with this idea and many reasons why it won’t work, but those also apply to the physical red cross on buildings, vehicles, and people’s clothing. So let’s try it.

EDITED TO ADD: Original reference.

13 Nov 10:21

New Quick Assist app will soon be integrated into Windows

by Martin Brinkmann

Microsoft announced the retiring of the integrated Quick Assist application of the Windows operating system in May 2022. Quick Assist is a remote assistance application, which may be used to get or give assistance. It is commonly used by technicians to provide remote assistance to an organization's workforce.

quick assist

Microsoft decided to retire Quick Assist and replace it with a new Microsoft Store version. Windows users who attempt to launch Quick Assist on their devices right now get a prompt stating that there is a new version available on the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft explained back then that the new application would enable it to patch security issues and other issues more quickly in the future.

Administrators were not too happy with the change. Two main points of criticism were leveled at Microsoft. First, that the installation of the new Quick Assist required administrative privileges, and second, that one could not be sure anymore if Quick Assist was available on a user device. The latter required additional assistance to get the new version of the application on the user's device.

Microsoft released a new Windows 10 version 22H2 build and a new Windows 11 build to the Release Preview Insider channel this week; these builds add the new Microsoft Store Quick Assist application as a native app back in the operating system.

The new version will replace the classic version of Quick Assist, which can't be run anymore anyway, on the target system. Quick Assist can then be launched via the Start Menu or by using its dedicated keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Windows-Q.

Release Preview indicates that the changes will land soon in stable versions of Windows 10 and 11. Microsoft has yet to announce when this will happen though. Windows users may install the Microsoft Store application manually at any time to get access to Quick Assist right away.

You can check out the Insider Preview build announcements for Windows 10 and Windows 11 here.

Now You: have you used Quick Assist or another remote assistance tool in the past?

Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post New Quick Assist app will soon be integrated into Windows appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

12 Nov 22:03

Albert Einstein

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
31 Oct 13:13

Apple Only Commits to Patching Latest OS Version

by Bruce Schneier

People have suspected this for a while, but Apple has made it official. It only commits to fully patching the latest version of its OS, even though it claims to support older versions.

From ArsTechnica:

In other words, while Apple will provide security-related updates for older versions of its operating systems, only the most recent upgrades will receive updates for every security problem Apple knows about. Apple currently provides security updates to macOS 11 Big Sur and macOS 12 Monterey alongside the newly released macOS Ventura, and in the past, it has released security updates for older iOS versions for devices that can’t install the latest upgrades.

This confirms something that independent security researchers have been aware of for a while but that Apple hasn’t publicly articulated before. Intego Chief Security Analyst Joshua Long has tracked the CVEs patched by different macOS and iOS updates for years and generally found that bugs patched in the newest OS versions can go months before being patched in older (but still ostensibly “supported”) versions, when they’re patched at all.

31 Oct 11:03

Learned Helpfulness

by (Peter Rukavina)

Learned helplessness is an interesting idea, and Wikipedia sums up current thinking well:

Learned helplessness is the behavior exhibited by a subject after enduring repeated aversive stimuli beyond their control. It was initially thought to be caused by the subject’s acceptance of their powerlessness: discontinuing attempts to escape or avoid the aversive stimulus, even when such alternatives are unambiguously presented. Upon exhibiting such behaviour, the subject was said to have acquired learned helplessness. Over the past few decades, neuroscience has provided insight into learned helplessness and shown that the original theory had it backward: the brain’s default state is to assume that control is not present, and the presence of “helpfulness” is what is learned first. However, it is unlearned when a subject is faced with prolonged aversive stimulation.

In other words: we learn that we’ve got control, and when things go sideways, over and over again, we unlearn it.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I’ve been finding myself perplexingly incapable of late. I’m a smart guy with enormous privilege, financial resources, and I’ve been known to have moxie by times. And yet problems that, in theory, are solvable have been slaying me, and I’ve been grasping for reasons why.

Driving downtown this morning after dropping off Olivia, I was thinking about how this might relate to Catherine’s death and the grief surrounding it.

From her incurable cancer diagnosis in 2014 until her death in 2020 Catherine accepted her fate: she did not rail against the darkness, and accepted that she was going to die. I followed her into that, and while I generally regarded it as the right attitude, the only reasonable attitude, I’m wondering now whether that also constituted “enduring repeated aversive stimuli beyond my control.”

What is the long-term effect on the psyche from waking up every morning to be reminded of the everpresence of impending doom?

I notice my disability most when it comes to confronting gnarly problems with many interlinked aspects (aspects that often lead down blind alleys or into brick walls). These are the types of problems that I’ve always excelled at, earned my living from, and I’ve loved solving them. But not so much of late.

What describes the process of caring for someone living with incurable cancer better than “confronting gnarly problems with many interlinked aspects.”

I’ve lost my taste for the challenge; I’m exhausted by the gnarly.

I want things to be simple.

And yet they are not.

And so I need a new plan, one that lets me rebuild my sense of helpfulness. I need a way to route around the brick walls. To not get flummoxed and debilitated by a feeling of how-can-this-possibly-be-so-hard. To break down things into bite-sized chunks. To make maps of things that, at one time, I might have been able to hold in my head. To ask for help, over and over and over again. To release my attachment to completeness, perfection.

My brain has been changed by what I’ve been through, in ways I’m only just beginning to understand; it’s time that I accept that, and work to adapt.

18 Oct 22:23

Crypto: ‘We need to look at global regulation of crypto,’ says European Commission financial-services commissioner Mairead McGuinness

European Commission's financial services commissioner Mairead McGuinness said crypto regulation needs to be a global effort, in an interview with the FT.
12 Oct 14:39

Google's 'Incognito' Mode Inspires Staff Jokes - and a Big Lawsuit

by msmash
An email mocking Chrome browsing mode's faux privacy has surfaced in the courtroom. From a report: On International Data Privacy Day last year, an email popped into Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai's inbox from Google's marketing chief Lorraine Twohill full of ideas on gaining user trust. "Make Incognito Mode truly private," she wrote in a bullet point. "We are limited in how strongly we can market Incognito because it's not truly private, thus requiring really fuzzy, hedging language that is almost more damaging." Now, billions of dollars in damages could be at stake in a consumer lawsuit targeting the private-browsing feature if a judge agrees Tuesday to let the case proceed as a class action on behalf of millions of users. Twohill's assessment of Incognito's shortcomings was remarkably candid considering Google had already been sued at the time she messaged her boss, who himself had shepherded the feature through development back when the company launched its Chrome browser in 2008. Google denies wrongdoing. "Privacy controls have long been built into our services and we encourage our teams to constantly discuss or consider ideas to improve them," spokesman Jose Castaneda said in an email. Court filings show that well before the search engine giant was taken to court, rank and file Googlers frankly voiced their own frustrations that Incognito didn't live up to its name.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

10 Oct 20:22

Lucille Ball

"The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age."
20 Sep 22:04

Attention is not a commodity

by Doc Searls

In one of his typically trenchant posts, titled Attentive, Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) compares human attention to oil, meaning an extractive commodity:

We used to refer to an information economy. But economies are defined by scarcity, not abundance (scarcity = value), and in an age of information abundance, what’s scarce? A: Attention. The scale of the world’s largest companies, the wealth of its richest people, and the power of governments are all rooted in the extraction, monetization, and custody of attention.

I have no argument with where Scott goes in the post. He’s right about all of it. My problem is with framing it inside the ad-supported platform and services industry. Outside of that industry is actual human attention, which is not a commodity at all.

There is nothing extractive in what I’m writing now, nor in your reading of it. Even the ads you see and hear in the world are not extractive. They are many things for sure: informative, distracting, annoying, interrupting, and more. But you do not experience some kind of fungible good being withdrawn from your life, even if that’s how the ad business thinks about it.

My point here is that reducing humans to beings who are only attentive—and passively so—is radically dehumanizing, and it is important to call that out. It’s the same reductionism we get with the word “consumers,” which Jerry Michalski calls “gullets with wallets and eyeballs”: creatures with infinite appetites for everything, constantly swimming upstream through a sea of “content.” (That’s another word that insults the infinite variety of goods it represents.)

None of us want our attention extracted, processed, monetized, captured, managed, controlled, held in custody, locked in, or subjected to any of the other verb forms that the advertising world uses without cringing. That the “attention economy” produces $trillions does not mean we want to be part of it, that we like it, or that we wish for it to persist, even though we participate in it.

Like the economies of slavery, farming, and ranching, the advertising economy relies on mute, passive, and choice-less participation by the sources of the commodities it sells. Scott is right when he says “You’d never say (much of) this shit to people in person.” Because shit it is.

Scott’s focus, however, is on what the big companies do, not on what people can do on their own, as free and independent participants in networked whatever—or as human beings who don’t need platforms to be social.

At this point in history it is almost impossible to think outside of platformed living. But the Internet is still as free and open as gravity, and does not require platforms to operate. And it’s still young: at most only decades old. In how we experience it today, with ubiquitous connectivity everywhere there’s a cellular data connection, it’s a few years old, tops.

The biggest part of that economy extracts personal data as a first step toward grabbing personal attention. That is the actual extractive part of the business. Tracking follows it. Extracting data and tracking people for ad purposes is the work of what we call adtech. (And it is very different from old-fashioned brand advertising, which does want attention, but doesn’t track or target you personally. I explain the difference in Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff.)

In How the Personal Data Extraction Industry Ends, which I wrote in August 2017, I documented how adtech had grown in just a few years, and how I expected it would end when Europe’s GDPR became enforceable starting the next May.

As we now know, GDPR enforcement has done nothing to stop what has become a far more massive, and still growing, economy. At most, the GDPR and California’s CCPA have merely inconvenienced that economy, while also creating a second economy in compliance, one feature of which is the value-subtract of websites worsened by insincere and misleading consent notices.

So, what can we do?

The simple and difficult answer is to start making tools for individuals, and services leveraging those tools. These are tools empowering individuals with better ways to engage the world’s organizations, especially businesses. You’ll find a list of fourteen different kinds of such tools and services here. Build some of those and we’ll have an intention economy that will do far more for business than what it’s getting now from the attention economy, regardless of how much money that economy is making today.

19 Sep 10:31

Because We Still Have Net 1.0

by Doc Searls

That’s the flyer for the first salon in our Beyond the Web Series at the Ostrom Workshop, here at Indiana University. You can attend in person or on Zoom. Register here for that. It’s at 2 PM Eastern on Monday, September 19.

And yes, all those links are on the Web. What’s not on the Web—yet—are all the things listed here. These are things the Internet can support, because, as a World of Ends (defined and maintained by TCP/IP), it is far deeper and broader than the Web alone, no matter what version number we append to the Web.

The salon will open with an interview of yours truly by Dr. Angie Raymond, Program Director of Data Management and Information Governance at the Ostrom Workshop, and Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics in the Kelley School of Business (among too much else to list here), and quickly move forward into a discussion. Our purpose is to introduce and talk about these ideas:

  1. That free customers are more valuable—to themselves, to businesses, and to the marketplace—than captive ones.
  2. That the Internet’s original promises of personal empowerment, peer-to-peer communication, free and open markets, and other utopian ideals, can actually happen without surveillance, algorithmic nudging, and capture by giants, all of which have all become norms in these early years of our digital world.
  3. That, since the admittedly utopian ambitions behind 1 and 2 require boiling oceans, it’s a good idea to try first proving them locally, in one community, guided by Ostrom’s principles for governing a commons. Which we are doing with a new project called the Byway.

This is our second Beyond the Web Salon series. The first featured David P. Reed, Ethan Zuckerman, Robin Chase, and Shoshana Zuboff. Upcoming in this series are:

Mark your calendars for those.

And, if you’d like homework to do before Monday, here you go:

See you there!

08 Sep 19:52

Stephen Jay Gould

"The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best - and therefore never scrutinize or question."
02 Sep 16:59

Tree-Planting Schemes Are Just Creating Tree Cemeteries

by BeauHD
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VICE World News: Thousands of cylindrical plastic tree guards line the grassland here, so uniform that, from a distance, it looks like a war memorial. This open space at the edge of King's Lynn, a quiet market town in the east of England, was supposed to be a new carbon sink for Norfolk, offering 6,000 trees to tackle the climate crisis. The problem is that almost all of the trees that the guards were supposed to protect have died. Experts have told VICE World News that not only were they planted at the wrong time of year, but that they were planted on species-rich grassland that was already carbon negative, which has now been mostly destroyed by tree planting. Environmentalists also point out that the trees were planted so shallowly into the ground that most were unlikely to ever take root. By planting the seedlings in April, instead of in winter or early spring, they never had a good chance of survival anyway. A pledge to tackle the climate crisis has turned into the opposite of carbon offsetting -- all using council funding (they declined to tell VICE World News how much). "Councils don't have a lot of money," Dr Charlie Gardner, a conservation scientist and local climate activist, told me as he showed me through the site. "There was a lot of good that could have been done with that money. But it's clear to me that doing good wasn't ever an objective, it was just seen to be doing something. That's what makes me sad about the whole thing." A number of regional and national governments have announced enormous tree planting schemes in the past few years as momentum has built to tackle the climate crisis -- and many of them haven't gone to plan. Hackney Council's partnership with charity Trees for Cities, which was funded by Coca Cola's company Honest Organic, was criticized in 2020 when it appeared that most, if not all, of the 4,000 trees planted had died. Environmentalists have criticized Pakistan's "10 billion trees" project for being an expensive waste of resources and Egypt, which will host the next UN climate conference, claims it will plant 100 million trees across the country. "There are no quick fixes with this crisis," Dr Charlie Gardner, a conservation scientist and local climate activist, said. "Simply planting trees isn't the answer. If we want these trees to have a real impact, they've got to still be alive in 100 years and that means it's a 100-year commitment, not a 1-day commitment." "The most important thing is to stop burning fossil fuels. The second most important thing is conserve the nature we already have. Trying to create new nature to absorb our fossil fuel emissions is way down the list of priorities."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

29 Aug 07:48

Subtracting devices

by Jon Udell

People who don’t listen to podcasts often ask people who do: “When do you find time to listen?” For me it’s always on long walks or hikes. (I do a lot of cycling too, and have thought about listening then, but wind makes that impractical and cars make it dangerous.) For many years my trusty podcast player was one or another version of the Creative Labs MuVo which, as the ad says, is “ideal for dynamic environments.”

At some point I opted for the convenience of just using my phone. Why carry an extra, single-purpose device when the multi-purpose phone can do everything? That was OK until my Quixotic attachment to Windows Phone became untenable. Not crazy about either of the alternatives, I flipped a coin and wound up with an iPhone. Which, of course, lacks a 3.5mm audio jack. So I got an adapter, but now the setup was hardly “ideal for dynamic environments.” My headset’s connection to the phone was unreliable, and I’d often have to stop walking, reseat it, and restart the podcast.

If you are gadget-minded you are now thinking: “Wireless earbuds!” But no thanks. The last thing I need in my life is more devices to keep track of, charge, and sync with other devices.

I was about to order a new MuVo, and I might still; it’s one of my favorite gadgets ever. But on a recent hike, in a remote area with nobody else around, I suddenly realized I didn’t need the headset at all. I yanked it out, stuck the phone in my pocket, and could hear perfectly well. Bonus: Nothing jammed into my ears.

It’s a bit weird when I do encounter other hikers. Should I pause the audio or not when we cross paths? So far I mostly do, but I don’t think it’s a big deal one way or another.

Adding more devices to solve a device problem amounts to doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I want to remain alert to the possibility that subtracting devices may be the right answer.

There’s a humorous coda to this story. It wasn’t just the headset that was failing to seat securely in the Lightning port. Charging cables were also becoming problematic. A friend suggested a low-tech solution: use a toothpick to pull lint out of the socket. It worked! I suppose I could now go back to using my wired headset on hikes. But I don’t think I will.

28 Aug 21:45

Ethanol Helps Plants Survive Drought

by BeauHD
Bruce66423 shares a report from The Telegraph: Academics from Japan have found that ethanol helps make plants more drought-resistant (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source) and better able to survive an extended bout of dry weather. Experiments found that getting plants drunk helps crops flourish while sober plants become shrunken and disheveled. Plants lose water through their leaves when pores called stomata open to allow it to escape, but ethanol helps keep these closed, the scientists found, thus improving water retention. Genetic analysis of the plant also showed that plants switch on drought-fighting genes when ethanol is picked up by the roots. This not only stopped the loss of water through the vent-like stomata but also saw the plant activate a process where it actually uses the alcohol for fuel. Photosynthesis, the vital process that plants use to make energy from sunlight, needs water, but in the study, published in the journal Plant and Cell Physiology, the team found the plant can do this with ethanol instead in times of drought to further conserve dwindling supplies while also still making energy. This metabolizing of alcohol also means that shops would not be stocked with alcohol-infused foods if an alcohol-aided plant was harvested as it would have long ago been turned into energy by the plant. "There are some interesting questions to ask about WHY this pathway exists in plants," adds Slashdot reader Bruce66423. "The article doesn't talk about the concentration needed."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

27 Aug 11:42

Security and Cheap Complexity

by Bruce Schneier

I’ve been saying that complexity is the worst enemy of security for a long time now. (Here’s me in 1999.) And it’s been true for a long time.

In 2018, Thomas Dullien of Google’s Project Zero talked about “cheap complexity.” Andrew Appel summarizes:

The anomaly of cheap complexity. For most of human history, a more complex device was more expensive to build than a simpler device. This is not the case in modern computing. It is often more cost-effective to take a very complicated device, and make it simulate simplicity, than to make a simpler device. This is because of economies of scale: complex general-purpose CPUs are cheap. On the other hand, custom-designed, simpler, application-specific devices, which could in principle be much more secure, are very expensive.

This is driven by two fundamental principles in computing: Universal computation, meaning that any computer can simulate any other; and Moore’s law, predicting that each year the number of transistors on a chip will grow exponentially. ARM Cortex-M0 CPUs cost pennies, though they are more powerful than some supercomputers of the 20th century.

The same is true in the software layers. A (huge and complex) general-purpose operating system is free, but a simpler, custom-designed, perhaps more secure OS would be very expensive to build. Or as Dullien asks, “How did this research code someone wrote in two weeks 20 years ago end up in a billion devices?”

This is correct. Today, it’s easier to build complex systems than it is to build simple ones. As recently as twenty years ago, if you wanted to build a refrigerator you would create custom refrigerator controller hardware and embedded software. Today, you just grab some standard microcontroller off the shelf and write a software application for it. And that microcontroller already comes with an IP stack, a microphone, a video port, Bluetooth, and a whole lot more. And since those features are there, engineers use them.

23 Aug 12:43

The 6 best Nvidia GPUs of all time

by Digitaltrends

Nvidia sets the standard so high for its gaming graphics cards that it’s actually hard to tell the difference between an Nvidia GPU that’s merely a winner and an Nvidia GPU that’s really special.


  • GeForce 256
  • GeForce 8800 GTX
  • GeForce GTX 680
  • GeForce GTX 980
  • GeForce GTX 1080
  • GeForce RTX 3080
  • So what’s next?Show 2 more items

Nvidia has long been the dominant player in the graphics card market, but the company has from time to time been put under serious pressure by its main rival AMD, which has launched several of its own iconic GPUs. Those only set Nvidia up for a major comeback, however, and sometimes that led to a real game-changing card.

It was hard to choose which Nvidia GPUs were truly worthy of being called the best of all time, but I’ve narrowed down the list to six cards that were truly important and made history.

GeForce 256

The very first

VGA Museum

Although Nvidia often claims the GeForce 256 was the world’s first GPU, that’s only true if Nvidia is the only company that gets to define what a GPU is. Before GeForce there were the RIVA series of graphics cards, and there were other companies making their own competing graphics cards then, too. What Nvidia really invented was the marketing of graphics cards as GPUs, because in 1999 when the 256 came out, terms like graphics card and graphics chipset were more common.

Nvidia is right that the 256 was important, however. Before the 256, the CPU played a very important role in rendering graphics, to the point where the CPU was directly completing steps in rendering a 3D environment. However, CPUs were not very efficient at doing this, which is where the 256 came in with hardware transforming and lighting, offloading the two most CPU intensive parts of rendering onto the GPU. This is one of the primary reasons why Nvidia claims this is the first GPU.

As a product, the GeForce 256 wasn’t exactly legendary: Anandtech wasn’t super impressed by its price for the performance at the time of its release. Part of the problem was the 256’s memory, which was single data rate, or SDR. Due to other advances, SDR was becoming insufficient for GPUs of this performance level. A faster dual data rate or DDR (the same DDR as in DDR5) launched just before the end of 1999, which finally met Anandtech’s expectations for  performance, but the increased price tag of the DDR version was hard to swallow.

The GeForce 256, first of its name, is certainly historical, but not because it was an amazing product. The 256 is important because it inaugurated the modern era of GPUs. The graphics card market wasn’t always a duopoly; back in the 90s, there were multiple companies competing against each other, with Nvidia being just one of them. Soon after the GeForce 256 launched, most of Nvidia’s rivals exited the market. 3dfx’s Voodoo 5 GPUs were uncompetitive and before it went bankrupt many of its technologies were bought by Nvidia; Matrox simply quit gaming GPUs altogether to focus on professional graphics.

By the end of 2000, the only other graphics company in town was ATI. When AMD acquired ATI in 2006, it brought about the modern Nvidia and AMD rivalry we all know today.

GeForce 8800 GTX

A monumental leap forward

VGA Museum

After the GeForce 256, Nvidia and ATI attempted to best the other with newer GPUs with higher performance. In 2002, however, ATI threw down the gauntlet by launching its Radeon 9000 series, and at a die size of 200mm squared, the flagship Radeon 9800 XT was easily the largest GPU ever. Nvidia’s flagship GeForce4 Ti 4600 at 100mm had no hope of beating even the midrange 9700 Pro, which inflicted a crushing defeat on Nvidia. Making a GPU was no longer just about the architecture, the memory, or the drivers; in order to win, Nvidia would need to make big GPUs like ATI.

For the next four years, the size of flagship GPUs continued to increase, and by 2005 both companies had launched a GPU that was around 300mm. Although Nvidia had regained the upper hand during this time, ATI was never far behind and its Radeon X1000 series was fairly competitive. A GPU sized at 300mm was far from the limit of what Nvidia could do, however. In 2006 Nvidia released its GeForce 8 series, led by the flagship 8800 GTX. Its GPU, codenamed G80, was nearly 500mm and its transistor count was almost three times higher than the last GeForce flagship.

The 8800 GTX did to ATI what the Radeon 9700 Pro and the rest of the 9000 series did to Nvidia, with Anandtech describing the moment as “9700 Pro-like.” A single 8800 GTX was almost twice as fast as ATI’s top-end X1950 XTX, not to mention much more efficient. At $599, the 8800 GTX was more expensive than its predecessors, but its high level of performance and DirectX 10 support made up for it.

But this was mostly the end of the big GPU arms race that had characterized the early 2000s for two main reasons. Firstly, 500mm was getting pretty close to the limit of how large a GPU could be, and even today 500mm is relatively big for a processor. Even if Nvidia wanted to, making a bigger GPU just wasn’t feasible. Secondly, ATI wasn’t working on its own 500mm GPU anyway, so Nvidia wasn’t in a rush to get an even bigger GPU to market. Nvidia had basically won the arms race by outspending ATI.

That year also saw the acquisition of ATI by AMD, which was finalized just before the 8800 GTX launched. Although ATI now had the backing of AMD, it really seemed like Nvidia had such a massive lead that Radeon wouldn’t challenge GeForce for a long time, perhaps never again.

GeForce GTX 680

Beating AMD at its own game


Nvidia’s next landmark release came in 2008 when it launched the GTX 200 series, starting with the GTX 280 and GTX 260. At nearly 600mm squared the 280 was a worthy monstrous successor to the 8800 GTX. Meanwhile, AMD and ATI signaled that they would no longer be launching high-end GPUs with big dies in order to compete, rather focusing on making smaller GPUs in a gambit known as the small die strategy. In its review, Anandtech said “Nvidia will be left all alone with top performance for the foreseeable future.” As it turned out, the next four years were pretty rough for Nvidia.

Starting with the HD 4000 series in 2008, AMD assaulted Nvidia with small GPUs that had high value and almost flagship levels of performance, and that dynamic was maintained throughout the next few generations. Nvidia’s GTX 280 wasn’t cost effective enough, then the GTX 400 series was delayed, and the 500 series was too hot and power hungry.

One of Nvidia’s traditional weaknesses was its disadvantage when it came to process, the way processors are manufactured. Nvidia was usually behind AMD, but it had finally caught up by using the 40nm node for the 400 series. AMD, however, wanted to regain the process lead quickly and decided its next generation would be on the new 28nm node, and Nvidia decided to follow suit.

AMD won the race to 28nm with its HD 7000 series, with its flagship HD 7970 putting AMD back in first place for performance. However, the GTX 680 launched just two months later, and not only did it beat the 7970 in performance, but also power efficiency and even die size. As Anandtech put it, Nvidia had “landed the technical trifecta” and that completely flipped the tables on AMD. AMD did reclaim the performance crown yet again by launching the HD 7970 GHz Edition later in 2012 (notable for being the first 1GHz GPU), but having the lead in efficiency and performance per millimeter was a good sign for Nvidia.

The back and forth battle between Nvidia and AMD was pretty exciting after how disappointing the GTX 400 and 500 series had been, and while the 680 wasn’t an 8800 GTX, it signaled Nvidia’s return to being truly competitive against AMD. Perhaps most importantly, Nvidia was no longer weighed down by its traditional process disadvantage, and that would eventually pay off in a big way.

GeForce GTX 980

Nvidia’s dominance begins

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Nvidia found itself in a very good spot with the GTX 600 series, and it was because of TSMC’s 28nm process. Under normal circumstances, AMD would have simply gone to TSMC’s next process in order to regain its traditional advantage, but this was no longer an option. TSMC and all other foundries in the world (except for Intel) had an extraordinary amount of difficulty progressing beyond the 28nm node. New technologies were needed in order to progress further, which meant Nvidia didn’t have to worry about AMD regaining the process lead any time soon.

Following a few years of back and forth and AMD floundering with limited funds, Nvidia launched the GTX 900 series in 2014, inaugurated by the GTX 980. Based on the new Maxwell architecture, it was an incredible improvement over the GTX 600 and 700 series despite being on the same node. The 980 was between 30% and 40% faster than the 780 while consuming less power, and it was even a smidge faster than the top-end 780 Ti. Of course, the 980 also beat the R9 290X, once again landing the trifecta of performance, power efficiency, and die size. In its review, Anandtech said the 980 came “very, very close to doing to the Radeon 290X what the GTX 680 did to Radeon HD 7970.”

AMD was incapable of responding. It didn’t have a next-generation GPU ready to launch in 2014. In fact, AMD wasn’t even working on a complete lineup of brand-new GPUs to even the score with Nvidia. AMD instead was planning on rebranding the Radeon 200 series as the Radeon 300 series, and would develop one new GPU to serve as the flagship. All of these GPUs were to launch in mid 2015, giving the entire GPU market to Nvidia for nearly a full year. Of course, Nvidia wanted to pull the rug right from under AMD and prepared a brand-new flagship.

Launching in mid 2015, the GTX 980 Ti was about 30% faster than the GTX 980, thanks to its significantly higher power consumption and larger die size at just over 600mm squared. It beat AMD’s brand-new R9 Fury X a month before it even launched. Although the Fury X wasn’t bad, it had lower performance than the 980 Ti, higher power consumption, and much less VRAM. It was a demonstration of how far ahead Nvidia was with the 900 series; while AMD was hastily trying to get the Fury X out the door, Nvidia could have launched the 980 Ti any time it wanted.

Anandtech put it pretty well: “The fact that they get so close only to be outmaneuvered by Nvidia once again makes the current situation all the more painful; it’s one thing to lose to Nvidia by feet, but to lose by inches only reminds you of just how close they got, how they almost upset Nvidia.”

Nvidia was basically a year ahead of AMD technologically, and while what they had done with the GTX 900 series was impressive, it was also a bit depressing. People wanted to see Nvidia and AMD duke it out like they had done in 2012 and 2013, but it started to look like that was all in the past. Nvidia’s next GPU would certainly reaffirm that feeling.

GeForce GTX 1080

The GPU with no competition but itself


In 2015, TSMC had finally completed the 16nm process, which could achieve 40% higher clock speeds than 28nm at the same power or half the power of 28nm at similar clock speeds. However, Nvidia planned to move to 16nm in 2016 when the node was more mature. Meanwhile, AMD had absolutely no plans to utilize TSMC’s 16nm but instead moved to launch new GPUs and CPUs on GlobalFoundries’s 14nm process. But don’t be fooled by the names: TSMC’s 16nm was and is better than GlobalFoundries’s 14nm. After 28nm, nomenclature for processes became based in marketing rather than scientific measurements. This meant that for the first time in modern GPU history, Nvidia had the process advantage against AMD.

The GTX 10-series launched in mid-2016, based on the new Pascal architecture and TSMC’s 16nm node. Pascal wasn’t actually very different from Maxwell, but the jump from 28nm to 16nm was massive, like Intel going from 14nm on Skylake to 10nm on Alder Lake. The GTX 1080 was the new flagship, and it’s hard to overstate how fast it was. The GTX 980 was a little faster than the GTX 780 Ti when it came out. By contrast, the GTX 1080 was over 30% faster than the GTX 980 Ti, and for $50 less, too. The die size of the 1080 was also extremely impressive, at just over 300mm squared, nearly half the size of the 980 Ti.

With the 1080 and the rest of the 10-series lineup, Nvidia effectively took the entire desktop GPU market for itself. AMD’s 300 series and the Fury X were simply no match. At the midrange, AMD launched the RX 400 series, but these were just three low to mid-range GPUs that were a throwback to the small die strategy, minus the part where Nvidia’s flagship was in striking distance like with the GTX 280 and the HD 4870. In fact, the 1080 was nearly twice as fast as the RX 480. The only GPU AMD could really beat was the mid-range GTX 1060, as the slightly cut down GTX 1070 was just a little too fast to lose to the Fury X.

AMD did eventually launch new high-end GPUs in the form of RX Vega, a full year after the 1080 came out. With much higher power consumption and the same selling price, the flagship RX Vega 64 beat the GTX 1080 by a hair but wasn’t very competitive. However, the GTX 1080 was no longer Nvidia’s flagship; with relatively small die size and a full year to prepare, Nvidia launched a brand-new flagship a whole three months before RX Vega even launched; it was a repeat of the 980 Ti. The new GTX 1080 Ti was even faster than the GTX 1080, delivering yet another 30% improvement to performance. As Anandtech put it, the 1080 Ti “further solidifie[d] Nvidia’s dominance of the high-end video card market.”

AMD’s failure to deliver a truly competitive high-end GPU meant that the 1080’s only real competition was Nvidia’s own GTX 1080 Ti. With the 1080 and the 1080 Ti, Nvidia achieved what is perhaps the most complete victory we’ve seen so far in modern GPU history. Over the past 4 years, Nvidia kept increasing its technological advantage over AMD, and it was hard to see how Nvidia could ever lose.

GeForce RTX 3080

Correcting course

After such a long and incredible streak of wins, perhaps it was inevitable that Nvidia would succumb to hubris and lose sight of what made Nvidia’s great GPUs so great. Nvidia did not follow up the GTX 10 series with yet another GPU with a stunning increase in performance, but with the infamous RTX 20 series. Perhaps in a move to cut AMD out of the GPU market, Nvidia focused on introducing hardware accelerated ray tracing and A.I. upscaling instead of delivering better performance in general. If successful, Nvidia could make AMD GPUs irrelevant until the company finally made Radeon GPUs with built-in ray tracing.

RTX 20-series was a bit of a flop. When the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti launched in late 2018, there weren’t even any games that supported ray tracing or deep learning super sampling (DLSS). But Nvidia priced RTX 20-series cards as if those features made all the difference. At $699, the 2080 had a nonsensical price, and the 2080 Ti’s $1,199 price tag was even more insane. Nvidia wasn’t even competing with itself anymore.

The performance improvement in existing titles was extremely disappointing, too; the RTX 2080 was only 11% faster than the GTX 1080, though at least the RTX 2080 Ti was around 30% faster than the GTX 1080 Ti.

The next two years were a course correction for Nvidia. The threat from AMD was starting to become pretty serious; the company had finally regained the process advantage by moving to TSMC’s 7nm and the company launched the RX 5700 XT in mid-2019. Nvidia was able to head it off once again by launching new GPUs, this time the RTX 20 Super series with a focus on value, but the 5700 XT must have worried Nvidia. The RTX 2080 Ti was three times as large yet was only 50% faster, meaning AMD was achieving much higher performance per millimeter. If AMD made a larger GPU, it could be difficult to beat.

Both Nvidia and AMD planned for a big showdown in 2020. Nvidia recognized AMD’s potential and pulled out all the stops: the new 8nm process from Samsung, the new Ampere architecture, and an emphasis on big GPUs. AMD meanwhile stayed on TSMC’s 7nm process but introduced the new RDNA 2 architecture and would also be launching a big GPU, its first since RX Vega in 2017. The last time both companies launched brand-new flagships within the same year was 2013, nearly a decade ago. Though the pandemic threatened to ruin the plans of both companies, neither company was willing to delay the next generation and launched as planned.

Nvidia fired first with the RTX 30-series, led by the flagship RTX 3090, but most of the focus was on the RTX 3080 since at $699 it was far more affordable than the $1,499 3090. Instead of being a repeat of the RTX 20-series, the 3080 delivered a sizeable 30% bump in performance at 4K over the RTX 2080 Ti, though the power consumption was a little high. At lower resolutions, the performance gain of the 3080 was somewhat less, but since the 3080 was very capable at 4K, it was easy to overlook this. The 3080 also benefitted from a wider variety of games supporting ray tracing and DLSS, giving value to having an Nvidia GPU with those features.

Of course, this wouldn’t matter if the 3080 and the rest of the RTX 30-series couldn’t stand up to AMD’s new RX 6000 series, which launched two months later. At $649, the RX 6800 XT was AMD’s answer to the RTX 3080. With nearly identical performance in most games and at most resolutions, the battle between the 3080 and the 6800 XT was reminiscent of the GTX 680 and the HD 7970. Each company had its advantages and disadvantages, with AMD leading in power efficiency and performance while Nvidia had better performance in ray tracing and support for other features like A.I. upscaling.

The excitement over a new episode in the GPU war quickly died out though, because it quickly came apparent that nobody could buy RTX 30 or RX 6000 or even any GPUs at all. The pandemic had seriously reduced supply while crypto increased demand and scalpers snatched up as many GPUs as they could. At the time of writing, the shortage has mostly ended, but most Nvidia GPUs are still selling for usually $100 or more over MSRP. Thankfully, higher-end GPUs like the RTX 3080 can be found closer to MSRP than lower-end 30 series cards, which keeps the 3080 a viable option.

On the whole, the RTX 3080 was a much-needed correction from Nvidia. Although the 3080 has marked the end of Nvidia’s near total domination of the desktop GPU market, it’s hard not to give the company credit for not losing to AMD. After all, the RX 6000 series is on a much better process and AMD has been extremely aggressive these past few years. And besides, it’s good to finally see a close race between Nvidia and AMD where both sides are trying really hard to win.

So what’s next?

Unlike AMD, Nvidia always keeps its cards close to its chest and rarely ever reveals information on upcoming products. We can be pretty confident the upcoming RTX 40 series will launch sometime this year, but everything else is uncertain. One of the more interesting rumors is that Nvidia will utilize TSMC’s 5nm for RTX 40 GPUs, and if this is true then that means Nvidia will have parity with AMD once again.

But I think that as long as RTX 40 isn’t another RTX 20 and provides more low-end and mid-range options than RTX 30, Nvidia should have a good enough product next generation. I would really like for it to be so good that it makes the list of best Nvidia GPUs of all time, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The post The 6 best Nvidia GPUs of all time appeared first on AIVAnet.

15 Aug 08:53

Confronting an Ancient Indian Hierarchy, Apple and IBM Ban Discrimation By Caste

by EditorDavid
"Apple, the world's biggest listed company, updated its general employee conduct policy about two years ago to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste," reports Reuters, "which it added alongside existing categories such as race, religion, gender, age and ancestry. Apple has more than 165,000 full-time employees, the article points out, and "The inclusion of the new category, which hasn't been previously reported, goes beyond U.S. discrimination laws, which do not explicitly ban casteism." The update came after the tech sector — which counts India as its top source of skilled foreign workers — received a wake-up call in June 2020 when California's employment regulator sued Cisco Systems on behalf of a low-caste engineer who accused two higher-caste bosses of blocking his career.... Since the suit was filed, several activist and employee groups have begun seeking updated U.S. discrimination legislation — and have also called on tech companies to change their own policies to help fill the void and deter casteism.... Elsewhere in tech, IBM told Reuters that it added caste, which was already in India-specific policies, to its global discrimination rules after the Cisco lawsuit was filed, though it declined to give a specific date or a rationale. Meta, Amazon, and Google do not mention caste in internal polices, the article points out — but they all told Reuters it's already prohibited by their current policies against discrimination. And yet, "Over 1,600 Google workers demanded the addition of caste to the main workplace code of conduct worldwide in a petition, seen by Reuters, which they emailed to CEO Sundar Pichai last month and re-sent last week after no response."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

13 Aug 00:23

Twitter Exposes Personal Information for 5.4 Million Accounts

by Bruce Schneier

Twitter accidentally exposed the personal information—including phone numbers and email addresses—for 5.4 million accounts. And someone was trying to sell this information.

In January 2022, we received a report through our bug bounty program of a vulnerability in Twitter’s systems. As a result of the vulnerability, if someone submitted an email address or phone number to Twitter’s systems, Twitter’s systems would tell the person what Twitter account the submitted email addresses or phone number was associated with, if any. This bug resulted from an update to our code in June 2021. When we learned about this, we immediately investigated and fixed it. At that time, we had no evidence to suggest someone had taken advantage of the vulnerability.

In July 2022, we learned through a press report that someone had potentially leveraged this and was offering to sell the information they had compiled. After reviewing a sample of the available data for sale, we confirmed that a bad actor had taken advantage of the issue before it was addressed.

This includes anonymous accounts.

This comment has it right:

So after forcing users to enter a phone number to continue using twitter, despite twitter having no need to know the users phone number, they then leak the phone numbers and associated accounts. Great.

But it gets worse… After being told of the leak in January, rather than disclosing the fact millions of users data had been open for anyone who looked, they quietly fixed it and hoped nobody else had found it.

It was only when the press started to notice they finally disclosed the leak.

That isn’t just one bug causing a security leak—it’s a chain of bad decisions and bad security culture, and if anything should attract government fines for lax data security, this is it.

Twitter’s blog post unhelpfully goes on to say:

If you operate a pseudonymous Twitter account, we understand the risks an incident like this can introduce and deeply regret that this happened. To keep your identity as veiled as possible, we recommend not adding a publicly known phone number or email address to your Twitter account.

Three news articles.

03 Aug 22:10

Earth sets record for the shortest day

June 29, 2022 broke records for Earth's shortest day, but does this mean our planet is spinning faster?
03 Aug 21:40

Having Rich Childhood Friends is Linked To a Higher Salary as an Adult

by msmash
Children who grow up in low-income households but who make friends that come from higher-income homes are more likely to have higher salaries in adulthood than those who have fewer such friends. From a report: "There's been a lot of speculation... that the individual's access to social capital, their social networks and the community they live in might matter a lot for a child's chance to rise out of poverty," says Raj Chetty at Harvard University. To find out if that holds up, he and his colleagues analysed anonymised Facebook data belonging to 72.2 million people in the US between the ages of 25 and 44, accounting for 84 per cent of the age group's US population. It is relatively nationally representative of that age group, he says. The team used a machine-learning algorithm to determine each person's socio-economic status (SES), combining data such as the median income of people who live in the same region, the person's age and sex and the value of their phone model as a proxy for individual income. The median household income was found to be close to $58,000. The researchers then split the individuals into two groups: those who were below the median SES and those who were above. If people made friends randomly, you would expect half of each person's friends to be in each income group. But instead, for people below the median SES, only 38 per cent of their friends were above the median SES. Meanwhile, 70.6 per cent of the friends of people above the median SES were also a part of the same group.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

01 Aug 11:15

How to subscribe to YouTube RSS Feeds without third-party services

by Martin Brinkmann

YouTube, at one time, supported RSS feeds. Anyone could subscribe to channel feeds to receive updates in any RSS reader.

youtube channel rss feed

Google made it harder over the years to subscribe to channels, likely to push YouTube's own subscriptions feature. Unlike feeds, subscriptions requires that users are signed in to an account to receive updates.

Third-party apps like NewPipe for Android or the Vivaldi web browser support subscriptions out of the box. Even Microsoft is experimenting with a "follow creator" feature in its Edge browser.

While those options are great, some users prefer to use a dedicated feed reader instead. Ideally, they'd subscribe to all their favorite channels to receive notifications whenever new videos are posted. One extra benefit of that is that there is no artificial limit in place.

How to subscribe to YouTube creator RSS feeds manually

It takes a bit of code digging to reveal the RSS feed of a channel or a playlist without third-party tools.

The core URL that you require is

You need to replace CHANNELID with the ID of the channel, and that is where it may get tricky for some.

Most YouTube channels use personalized names in the URL and not the channel ID. While you may access a YouTube channel using the personalized name and the channel ID, you can't access the RSS feed using the personalized name.

One example:

  • Mr. Beast Channel ID URL:
  • Mr. Beast Personalized URL:

Reveal the YouTube channel ID

youtube channel id

You need to display the source code of the channel on YouTube to reveal the ID. Here is how that is done:

  1. Open the creator channel on YouTube, e.g.,
  2. Right-click on a blank part of the page and select "view page source". Depending on the browser that you use, it may have a slightly different name. Alternatively, prepend view-source: before the URL and hit the Enter-key.
  3. Search for browse_id. You may open the search option with Ctrl-F, or from the browser's main menu.
  4. The browser jumps to the first instance of browse_id in the source code. Copy the string of the value field that is right next to it; this is the channel's ID.

Create the YouTube channel RSS feed URL

Now that you have the channel ID and the default feed address, you can combine the two to create a working feed address:

  • Default URL:
  • Channel ID: UCX6OQ3DkcsbYNE6H8uQQuVA
  • Working Feed URL:

The easiest way to test the feed URL is to load it in the browser. The browser should display the content of the XML file. You may subscribe to the channel using that URL in any feed reader that supports it.

Create a YouTube playlist RSS feed URL

youtube playlist rss feed

You may create RSS feed URLs of playlists on YouTube as well. Thankfully, this is easier as the IDs of playlists are already visible in playlist URLs.

The default feed address for playlists:

Here is how that is done:

  1. Open the playlist on YouTube, e.g.,
  2. The ID begins after list=; in the case above, it is PLYH8WvNV1YEnOwmzyWz4vR0HsX1Qn0PoU
  3. Replace PLAYLISTID of the default feed address with the real ID to create the RSS feed for the playlist. In the example above, you get

Now You: are you subscribe to YouTube channels?

Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post How to subscribe to YouTube RSS Feeds without third-party services appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

28 Jul 14:02

Larry Gelbart

"One doesn't have a sense of humor. It has you."
24 Jul 21:35

RSS Support For MarkDown

by Ton Zijlstra

Favorited dev Notes for Markdown in RSS by Dave Winer

As part of celebrating twenty years of RSS, Dave Winer adds the ability to incorporate markdown in RSS feeds. Essentially this was always possible, but there was no way to tell a RSS reader that something was to be interpreted not as HTML but as Markdown. Doing this makes it possible to provide both HTML and Markdown in the same feed, if Markdown is e.g. the way you’ve written a posting and want to be able to also edit it again in Markdown, and not in HTML.

After my hiatus I think this is worth an experiment to see if I can generate an RSS feed directly from my markdown notes on my local system. Just like I already can generate OPML feeds and blogposts or website pages from my notes. Chris Aldrich recently asked about using WordPress and Webmention as a way of publishing your own notes with the capability of linking them to other peoples notes. Could RSS play a role there too? Could I provide selected RSS feeds for specific topics directly from my notes? Or for specific people? For them to read along? Is there something here that can play a role in social sharing of annotations, such as provides? I need to play with this thought. RSS is well understood an broadly used, providing not just HTML but also Markdown through it sounds like a step worth exploring.

21 Jul 17:26

Critical Vulnerabilities in GPS Trackers

by Bruce Schneier

This is a dangerous vulnerability:

An assessment from security firm BitSight found six vulnerabilities in the Micodus MV720, a GPS tracker that sells for about $20 and is widely available. The researchers who performed the assessment believe the same critical vulnerabilities are present in other Micodus tracker models. The China-based manufacturer says 1.5 million of its tracking devices are deployed across 420,000 customers. BitSight found the device in use in 169 countries, with customers including governments, militaries, law enforcement agencies, and aerospace, shipping, and manufacturing companies.

BitSight discovered what it said were six “severe” vulnerabilities in the device that allow for a host of possible attacks. One flaw is the use of unencrypted HTTP communications that makes it possible for remote hackers to conduct adversary-in-the-middle attacks that intercept or change requests sent between the mobile application and supporting servers. Other vulnerabilities include a flawed authentication mechanism in the mobile app that can allow attackers to access the hardcoded key for locking down the trackers and the ability to use a custom IP address that makes it possible for hackers to monitor and control all communications to and from the device.

The security firm said it first contacted Micodus in September to notify company officials of the vulnerabilities. BitSight and CISA finally went public with the findings on Tuesday after trying for months to privately engage with the manufacturer. As of the time of writing, all of the vulnerabilities remain unpatched and unmitigated.

These are computers and computer vulnerabilities, but because the computers are attached to cars, the vulnerabilities become potentially life-threatening. CISA writes:

These vulnerabilities could impact access to a vehicle fuel supply, vehicle control, or allow locational surveillance of vehicles in which the device is installed.

I wouldn’t have buried “vehicle control” in the middle of that sentence.

18 Jul 22:26

Why HDR gaming on PC is such a mess, according to a Ubisoft developer

by Digitaltrends

HDR has been an embarrassment for PC gaming for years. The state of affairs isn’t much better in 2022 than it was five years ago, but to really understand what has gone wrong, I needed to speak to an authority on the game development side of the story.


  • Not a ‘first-class citizen’
  • Platform-agnostic
  • HDR is a premium, even for developers

So, I spoke with a technical developer over at Ubisoft to get their take on the matter. It’s an issue that large developers like Ubisoft are well aware of, and have even developed tools to combat — but they also say we’re making progress, even if we have a long way to go.

Not a ‘first-class citizen’

Nicolas Lopez is a rendering technical lead working on Ubisoft Anvil — the engine behind Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Rainbow Six Extraction, and the upcoming Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake, among others. Lopez leads the charge on getting all of the art, mechanics, and code into a final image, and he didn’t mince words about HDR: “HDR is not treated as the first class-citizen it should be in the game industry.”

A big reason why is adoption, according to Lopez. HDR on PC monitors hasn’t been a focal point like it has on consumer TVs, and for a multiplatform studio like Ubisoft, that means focusing much of the effort on the SDR result. Lopez says that the teams at Ubisoft “are very confident about our SDR workflows and outputs, but we know that the mileage may vary when working with HDR on PC.”

The vast majority of HDR monitors available today only meet the lowest DisplayHDR 400 level.

The mileage on PC varies so much because PC monitors have unstable standards for what constitutes HDR (even among the best HDR monitors). The DisplayHDR standard from VESA attempts to standardize the appearance of HDR on gaming monitors, but it has some major loopholes. Take the Samsung Odyssey G7 and MSI MPG32-QD as two examples. Both have DisplayHDR 600 certification, but the MSI monitor has twice as many local dimming zones. That leads to a much more natural HDR image despite the fact that both monitors have the same certification.

To make matters worse, the vast majority of HDR monitors available today only meet the lowest DisplayHDR 400 level — a certification that doesn’t even come close to the requirements of HDR. TVs, on the other hand, have much better HDR at a much lower price. The Hisense U8G, for example, gets much brighter than a gaming monitor and comes with full array local dimming (a feature you can only find on gaming monitors north of $1,200).

Riley Young/Digital Trends

Lopez says developers are acutely aware of the difference between gaming monitors and TVs, and the teams at Ubisoft prioritize accordingly: “We assume the vast majority of players who are going to play our games on a HDR display will do so on a console plugged to a HDR TV, so it’s our main target. However we make sure all platforms look good in the end.”


With the vast differences between HDR gaming monitors in mind, Lopez says the teams as Ubisoft “try to make the process as transparent and platform-agnostic as possible” to avoid duplicating work and speed up production pipelines. For that, Ubisoft uses the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES), which is a device-independent color space developed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (yes, the Oscars people).

The main benefit of ACES is that it takes in all of the data and processes it down to the color space of the display you’re using. “Thanks to ACES, you can technically grade your game on an SDR display, and it will still be valid in HDR,” Lopez says. However, he also clarified that “it’s still better to master on an HDR display.”

Although a generalist approach is good for a multiplatform studio like Ubisoft, it can’t solve the issues that HDR gaming monitors have today. “HDR support on PC monitors has been lagging behind for quite a while compared to consumer TVs,” Lopez says.

Outside of the panels themselves, a key feature missing from all but a few gaming expensive gaming monitors is dynamic metadata. HDR 10+ and Dolby Vision are widely supported on TVs like the LG C2 OLED and consoles, which both offer dynamic metadata to adjust the color and brightness on a scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame basis.

With static metadata, Lopez says that games set the minimum and maximum brightness values once at the start, essentially covering the entire spectrum of color possible for every possible lighting situation. “With dynamic metadata, we can determine the optimal range of min/max brightness per frame … and produce more accurate colors.”

Ubisoft, and likely most AAA studios, color games to look great on as many display as possible. But all of the effort still can’t reproduce the exact same image on every display, an issue that’s compounded by the fact that HDR gaming monitors are behind TVs in terms of panel technology and dynamic metadata. The result: Wildly different HDR experiences despite the developer’s intentions and effort.

HDR is a premium, even for developers

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

It’s easy to assume that a multibillion-dollar company like Ubisoft has a fleet of high-quality HDR displays to calibrate games with, but I still posed the question to Lopez. He says the vast majority of work still happens on SDR displays, while HDR is “usually assigned to a few key people equipped with consumer HDR TVs, or very specific calibrated HDR monitors.”

Lopez even shared a story about running game builds across the street to a different company to test HDR performance. “At some point, we had a deal with a high-end electronic product review company on the other side of the street. Some teams would take their game builds over there and have the opportunity to test on a wide range of consumer displays.”

“I’m confident we’re getting there.”

Although a large developer like Ubisoft has access to high-quality HDR displays, it’s safe to assume that smaller developers don’t have the same luxuries (especially given some of the hoops a developer like Ubisoft has needed to jump through). Lopez said this gap became all the more apparent during the pandemic, when the team had to lean on ACES as developers remotely connected to their SDR work desktops.

At the end of my Q&A, Lopez reiterated that HDR is not treated like the first-class citizen it should be. Much more development time and effort goes toward making a high-quality SDR version that, hopefully, offers a solid HDR experience on consumer TVs. Lopez seemed confident that HDR is improving, though: “It’s been a slow transition and adoption, but with the new generation of HDR consoles and vendors ramping up their production lines, I’m confident we’re getting there.”

The post Why HDR gaming on PC is such a mess, according to a Ubisoft developer appeared first on AIVAnet.

14 Jul 17:01

New Browser De-anonymization Technique

by Bruce Schneier

Researchers have a new way to de-anonymize browser users, by correlating their behavior on one account with their behavior on another:

The findings, which NJIT researchers will present at the Usenix Security Symposium in Boston next month, show how an attacker who tricks someone into loading a malicious website can determine whether that visitor controls a particular public identifier, like an email address or social media account, thus linking the visitor to a piece of potentially personal data.

When you visit a website, the page can capture your IP address, but this doesn’t necessarily give the site owner enough information to individually identify you. Instead, the hack analyzes subtle features of a potential target’s browser activity to determine whether they are logged into an account for an array of services, from YouTube and Dropbox to Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and more. Plus the attacks work against every major browser, including the anonymity-focused Tor Browser.


“Let’s say you have a forum for underground extremists or activists, and a law enforcement agency has covertly taken control of it,” Curtmola says. “They want to identify the users of this forum but can’t do this directly because the users use pseudonyms. But let’s say that the agency was able to also gather a list of Facebook accounts who are suspected to be users of this forum. They would now be able to correlate whoever visits the forum with a specific Facebook identity.”